To be honest, when Renyi first told me that his next conference was going to be in Ireland, I wasn’t exactly ecstatic. My first reaction was: what’s in Ireland? I could count the number of people I know who had been there with half a hand. I had no clue about the country, and had even thought of not joining him on this trip.
Boy would I have kicked myself if I had done that!
Ireland turned out to be one of the best holidays the husband and I had. The weather was a little too erratic and wet for my liking, but even that couldn’t dampen our fun. We were only there for a couple of weeks so we decided to just concentrate on two cities: Dublin and Galway. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see the rest next time. Here’s some highlights of our trip, and reasons why I think Ireland should be on your places-to-visit list (at least in summer. I’m guessing winter would be awfully cold)!
Renyi and I seldom utilize tour buses on our holidays, but because we weren’t familiar with Ireland and we weren’t driving, we decided to engage them in Galway city to the Connemara and Cong, and the Cliffs of Moher and Burren. It was a good choice cos the roads were long and winding and I’m pretty sure there were some areas even the GPS wouldn’t be able to get a signal.
Connemara is probably our favorite place in terms of scenary in Galway. Besides the obvious abbey we got to see (above), the road trip was just filled with beautiful lakes, green plains, moutains and castles.
Our second favorite place at Galway is probably the Aran Islands. For that, we had to take a bus and a ferry, but it was well worth it. There are three islands that make up the Aran Islands group and for just a day trip, we only had time for one, so we picked the biggest one: Inishmore. The Aran islands are a little more backward than their Irish counterparts, and that is what makes the place attractive. People flock there to see traditional Irish life. To explore the island, Renyi and I rented bicycles.
Cycling along the coast was probably the most fun — before it started pouring. But that’s irish weather for you, as one man told us as we returned our bicycles drenched from head to toe.
Burren was another place we loved, and to get there, we took the tour bus. It was packaged together with the Cliffs of Moher sights, but by the time we went up to the cliffs, we experienced freak weather and it was so foggy, we literally couldn’t see a thing from the cliffs. It was just fog. Couldn’t see the ocean beneath which was a real bummer. That was probably the low point on this trip — to sit on the bus till your ass hurts but not able to see the view!! bahh.
But apart from the disappointment at the cliffs, Burren (which means great rock) was beautiful!
At Dublin, we stayed at one of the worst hotels ever. The walls were so paper thin that every night, we were woken up by screams and groans along our doorway. No kidding. So it was so wonderful when we took a day trip to Howth Village. It was just so peaceful and scenic that it quickly became our number one favorite spot in Dublin, and we visited there twice in a week. Renyi said if he knew how nice it was, he would have booked a couple of night’s stay there.
The first time we were there, we trekked for three hours up the cliffs.
The both times we were there, the weather was perfect. Sunny skies, cool winds — I only have fond memories for this place!
We also took a day out to visit the Malahide Castle in Dublin. The castle was smaller and not as nice as I had expected, so I wouldn’t say it is a must-see. The large garden, on the other hand, was pretty neat.
On the whole, Galway and Dublin were beautiful in their own way. Galway’s town was a lot more scenic compared to Dublin, but after one week, I was ready to leave and go to the city.
Food is one of the reasons I travel and Ireland surprised me with what she could offer! I had one of the best culinary experiences in Europe while I was there! Even better than Sweden and Switzerland. The dishes were not fancy but the use of quality ingredients really elevate the taste from ordinary to super yummy! The seafood were so fresh! Everywhere we went, restaurants would emphasize that they use Irish produce (beef, lamb, sausages, butter). They are really proud of their products and I can see why! Even Burger King’s Angus Beef had a sticker that said they used Irish beef only.
Here are some of the memorable dishes!
The more common seafood chowders we saw were white and cream-based but this was the best we had after trying like 5-7 different seafood chowders. The soda bread you see at the side is an Irish specialty.
Mocha Beans served the best soda bread I’d tried on this trip.
We chanced upon this jewel of a place on the day they were having a deal of 10 Euros for every main course. It was more than 50 per cent off. What a steal!
We tried this the day before we left Galway and I wished I knew about it sooner! I thought I’d be able to eat it again when I was in Dublin but turned out it didn’t have a store there! -_-“
Suffice to say, I am more than thrilled with the food in Ireland!
My third reason for loving Ireland is that the people there are so, so friendly — especially at Galway! Everywhere we went, people greeted us with a smile — from the coach driver to the waitress at the restaurant. No one seemed particularly stressed out or angry.
At Howth village, Renyi and I bought some fish and chips and brought it to the park to eat. There weren’t many benches left so we asked to share it with this gentleman. He was around 60, had a head full of white hair and was dressed in a smart suit. He gladly agreed and before we could sit down, he quickly warned us about possible wet bird droppings on the bench. He began telling us that he accidentally sat on some, and before we could say anything, he quickly took out a tissue paper and started wiping the bench for us, just to make sure it was clean. When he was done, he smiled at us cheerfully and said that it was now safe for us to sit.
How nice was that!!!
I was kind of flabbergasted and Renyi and I thanked him profusely. He sat with us for a short while, looking over some documents in his bag, before standing up and bidding us goodbye.
I had the opportunity to visit two museums, but without Renyi because he had to be at the conference on both days. The Book of Kells and The Long Room at the Trinity College were nice, but the Writer’s Museum was even better! I had difficulty finding the Writer’s Museum because it was inconspicuously located between two buildings, and it was small. Like, 4 little rooms as exhibits kind of small. When I first went in, I was a little disappointed by its size. But as I walked through the exhibits, each display was choked full with interesting tidbits and details about Ireland’s long history of famous writers. I was floored. Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) was probably my favorite showcase, followed by Oscar Wilde. This is a must-see for any writer!
What can I say? Ireland was full of wonderful surprises and it was a much needed break for Renyi and me. For those who are interested to visit Ireland, feel free to let me know if you need tips on how to move around (especially without a car), etc.